GAME NOTES: A pair of teams that opened the season with home victories are set to square off as part of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic, as the Santa Clara Broncos take on the Saint Louis Billikens.
Santa Clara got its season off to a roaring start last Saturday by defeating Simpson, 106-66. While it was far from an impressive opponent, the win for the Broncos is nonetheless a good sign for a squad that won just eight of 30 games a season ago.
Saint Louis played its season opener last Friday at Chaifetz Arena and took care of business against USC Upstate, 76-59. The Billikens were picked to finish second in the Atlantic 10 Conference preseason poll, and they set out to top their 26 wins from last season.
Santa Clara has won two of the three previous matchups between these two teams, and the last meeting took place during the 1991-92 season.
The Broncos could not have asked for a better start to their season, as they hit 50 percent of their field goal attempts (39-of-78), including 41.2 percent of their three-point tries (14-of-34). However, they did struggle from the foul line, converting a mere 14-of-27. The big night was fueled by Kevin Foster, who drilled seven three-pointers en route to 27 points, and he is now just 19 points away from breaking the school's all-time scoring record. Foster was awards the West Coast Conference's Player of the Week honors, albeit for a very shortened week. Seven-footer Robert Garrett came off the bench and had a career-night with 14 points and seven rebounds. In all, 11 Santa Clara players scored on the night, including four in double figures.
Saint Louis showed last year that it was one of the top defensive teams in the nation as it ranked eighth in allowing just 57.6 ppg, and it picked up right where it left off against USC Upstate by allowing a scant 59 points. The effort at the offensive end of the court was impressive as well, as the Billikens shot 27-of-52 from the field and 19-of-22 from the free-throw line. Dwayne Evans paced all scorers with 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting and he grabbed a team-high eight rebounds. Evans is no stranger to making a splash on the boards, as he averaged a team-best 7.3 rpg a year ago. Cody Ellis came off the bench to tally 15 points while going 7-of-7 from the line. Jordair Jett tallied 14 points, five assists and five rebounds, while Mike McCall, Jr. chipped in with 12 points. It was a sound all-around effort by Saint Louis, which won the rebounding battle, 31-20, and committed just nine turnovers compared to 15 for USC Upstate.
Santa Clara's confidence is running high after its first win, but it won't have the luxury of playing Division II schools all season long. Saint Louis was an NCAA Tournament squad last year and it is looking the part so far this season, meaning it should have no trouble moving to 2-0 in front of its home fans.
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